Money lost to phone scammers triples in a year

December 2nd 2014

An estimated £23.9 million has been tricked out of unsuspecting victims of 'vishing' phone calls in the last year in the UK. The figure has been released today by Financial Fraud Action (FFA UK), the group under which the financial services industry co-ordinates its activity on fraud prevention. The figure is up from £7 million the previous year.

For information and advice on spotting and avoiding scam phone calls and emails, click here

FFA UK is launching an awareness advertising campaign to highlight the dangers of vishing … a kind of social engineering, as manipulative frauds are known.

Conducted on behalf of FFA UK by ICM, the research suggests that 58% of people have received suspect calls, a steep rise from 41% of respondents in a similar study carried out last summer.

'Vishing' – a combination of 'voice' and 'phishing' – involves a fraudster deceiving victims into believing they are calling from the police, their bank or a computer support company. The calls attempt to convince the victim that they have been the victim of fraud and ask for personal financial information – such as card details or a PIN – to access their account. Some ask victims to transfer money, to withdraw cash from a branch, or to hand over a bank card to a courier. The computer support calls often request remote access to the victim's computer, resulting in installation of spyware or, at the very least, antivirus software which is available free, but is charged for by the fraudsters at an often exorbitant price.

Worrying lack of awareness and recognition

Despite the growing threat, results from the research found that 25% of people make no effort to challenge the identity of callers asking for financial information. 6% of people said they found it difficult to tell the difference between genuine requests for information on the phone and fraudulent ones.

A sizeable minority also said they would comply with fraudulent directions from the criminal, believing them to be genuine requests from the caller. A total of 10% of respondents said they would either give cash to a ‘courier’, hand over their card, or move money into another account if requested to do so by a criminal purporting to be from their bank.

41% of those questioned were unaware of the fraudsters’ trick of encouraging their victim to call the bank to verify their identity, only to stay on the line, which can remain open for up to two minutes. When the victim picks up the phone to make what they assume is a new call, the criminal’s accomplice tricks them into thinking they are now connected to the bank.

FFA UK's advice to consumers

– Being wary of cold calling, especially if the caller suggests you call back
– Banks and the police never ask for personal banking details, or request that individuals withdraw or transfer money
– If suspicious of a call, hang up, wait five minutes or preferably use a different phone line to report the fraud

Advertisements are appearing across the country this week to warn people of telephone scams. All the major UK banks, building societies, card companies and chief police officers have also collaborated in signing a declaration aiming to highlight the warning signs of phone scams.

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